Turnpike revenues climb with change to E-ZPass

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PORTLAND (AP) – The Maine Turnpike Authority collected millions of dollars more in tolls than it had projected in the first year of using the new E-ZPass electronic toll collection system.

The authority released a 50-page report Thursday analyzing the first year of using E-ZPass from Feb. 1, 2005, through January. During that period, motorists paid out $85.2 million in tolls, which was $6.3 million more than had been projected.

The report, which was prepared by the turnpike authority and HNTB engineering consulting firm, found that the increase was due to several factors, including improvements in the technology’s accuracy and a reduction in discounted tolls for out-of-state drivers.

The report said that electronic fare collection efforts are now 99.9 percent accurate, a major improvement over the old Transpass system that was used before the E-ZPass system went into operation last year. Electronic tolls rose from 26 percent of total revenue under Transpass to 44 percent under E-ZPass last year.

Roughly half of all E-ZPass revenue in Maine now comes from accounts established in other states, including New Hampshire and Massachusetts, the report said. E-ZPass is in operation in 11 states.

And southbound traffic delays at the turnpike’s toll plaza in York were minimal last summer as more people paying with E-ZPass accelerated the flow of cars, the report said.

Because of the unexpected revenues, the authority will consider making additional upgrades to the 113-mile road and reducing future borrowing, according to the report.

Turnpike authority CEO Paul Violette said that more than half of the turnpike’s 120 bridges are more than 50 years old.

“There is no end to the amount of money we need for the capital program,” he said.

Turnpike officials said they have not considered using the additional revenue to lower tolls following last year’s fare hike.

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